Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Familiarity breeds competition for Osceola, Seminole

Osceola and Seminole high schools do not belong in the same football classification. They do not compete in the same district.

So what exactly is at stake when Osceola hosts tonight's season opener between the neighboring programs?

To the players and fans from both schools, everything.

"From a player perspective, if we lose every game but beat Osceola we'd be happy," Seminole tight end Matthew Wonsick said.

Often, the teams are afterthoughts in the Pinellas County football landscape. In the past decade, they have combined for just five winning seasons and three playoff appearances. Because of that, their rivalry doesn't get the notoriety of other grudge matches such as Clearwater Central Catholic vs. St. Petersburg Catholic or East Lake vs. Tarpon Springs.

But make no mistake, the annual Osceola-Seminole game is the most intense three hours of the sports calendar for both team. It's the hot ember of a feud that burns all year.

The intensity is due in large part to proximity. The players grew up together, went to elementary and middle school together, and played on the same youth league teams.

"Everyone knows everyone," Osceola linebacker Chad Brittain said.

Still, that doesn't mean there is a lot of civility.

"There's a lot of drama between the schools off the field that translates to a lot of talking on the field," Seminole running back Travis Wateska said. "Osceola's known to Seminole as more of a 'snobby' or 'preppy' school."

There was no greater drama than last season when Osceola players and students pulled off a massive prank that took days to plan.

Quadarius Patterson, a running back who graduated from Osceola in June, took part in the shenanigans. He and about nine others waited until 3 a.m. the night before the game to sneak into Seminole's stadium and stick 5,000 plastic forks on the field. They also covered the visitors' stands with blue and orange tissue paper and balloons.

"Yeah, we forked that field," Patterson said.

This was how Seminole coach Chris Miller was introduced to the rivalry. Miller played and coached at Admiral Farragut before taking over the Warhawks last year.

"My first game as coach was against Osceola and we come out that morning to a gazillion forks in our field," Miller said. "I got to know quickly how big the rivalry is. But it's not really mean-spirited. The teams are familiar with each other and want to win, but there's a mutual respect. It's healthy."

To add insult to injury, Osceola then went out and rallied from an early deficit to beat Seminole 23-15, marking the Warriors' third straight win in the series.

In the spring, Patterson and Co. pulled off the same prank again — this time sticking forks in the baseball field.

"We actually got caught jumping the fence on that one and had to come back later in the night," Patterson said.

So what kind of hijinks does Seminole have in store this week?

"Nothing," Wonsick said. "We don't really care about the prank. It's the way we lost last year that killed us. Our retaliation will be on the field this year. No need for petty games."

This game has special meaning for Osceola with George Palmer entering his 25th season as coach of the program. And despite a so-called truce, the Warriors were ready if anyone tried anything during the week leading up to game day.

"We'll be ready," Brittain said. "We may have to stand guard to protect the field."

Contact Bob Putnam at [email protected] Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.

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